Italo Scanga

About Artist: Italo Scanga (June 6, 1932 - July 7, 2001) Italian-born American artist. Known for his sculptures, prints and paintings, mostly created from found objects.Italo Scanga was an innovative neo-Dadaist, neo-Expressionist and neo-Cubist multimedia artist who made sculptures of ordinary objects and created prints, glass and ceramic works. Myths had always fascinated Italo Scanga. Much of his sculptures translate written or oral narratives into a realm of visual objects. Constructed of wood and glass, found objects or fabric, his ensembles reflect a trio of activities - working, eating and praying. These dominate the lives of the men and women who perform such tasks daily, those who live close to the land but they are also processes which are lionized by many who contemplate romantically, a simpler, bucolic life. Scanga, through a vocabulary of basic tools, icons and foodstuffs, reworked in a very personal way, attempts to restore the original sense of the peasant world, the realities of hard work or religious devotion often ameliorated through our present civilized sentimentality. He works through myths to give us the essentials of such a cultural experience. While there is no single source for Scanga's work, many of the stories, traditions and superstitions retold in his adumbrated saints and basketed scythes are native to the folk-life of southern Italy. This culture, inhabiting the time-worn Calabrian countryside of Scanga's native land, provides the artist with his most consistent and powerful source material. Whether religious or secular in content, the works of the past decade are the artist's reflections on the immutable, universal aspects of peasant life. Some, like the series of Italian photographs, are intensely personal while others use a more generally recognized set of images - old farm tools, wooden bowls or large plaster statues of Saint Joseph and the Madonna. They are all however, Scanga's own reinterpretation of those universals, his personal memories and thoughts commingled and then frozen for his audience to contemplate. Scanga's newest series of works, the "Potato Famine" sculptures, are logical extensions of his earlier efforts. He begins with the familiars of saints and tools but here they are supporting armatures not focal points. If his earlier offerings of herbs, peppers and the like were presented in blown glass peasant ware or hung as dried provisions domesticating an exhibitions space, these potato supplications are affixed directly to the accompanying icons - not unlike the devotions pinned directly to the images of saints and Madonnas as they are paraded before the faithful in street processions. Other spuds rest in huge ladles and bowls just as they are. A simple, raw food - uncooked but potentially nourishing. Far from being an attempt at humour or funk, Scanga's choice of the white (sometimes called Irish) potato is in fact a perfect conflation of symbols for the peasant life he intends to evoke. The dusty tubers, extracted from the ground retain much of their earthy character. Beneath their dry brown exterior is a moist, crisp flesh - a humble organic metaphor for the meager existence of the rural working class.

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